Exhausted, Mundt trudged up the stairs to the top floor. He no longer had a month to revive his networks. Fisher demanded results now, if not sooner. Americans. Demanding. They didn’t tell him the reason for the new urgency. Things had changed. A new project took precedence over everything. So, he had little sleep in the last few days.
He had to stop to catch his breath. The meager rations plus the conditions in the camps had weakened him more than he realized. His new position would now feed him better so soon he would be again in good physical shape. But for now, he needed to press on. Revive his contacts and their networks. Track down the culprits who compromised Herr Fisher’s operations. Whatever that might be.
On the top floor, he knocked on the second door on the right. The woman appeared in the doorway. Her eyes opened wide in surprise, then she glanced back into her apartment.
“Who is it, Martha?” a voice said from inside.
“I am not sure.” she again glanced back into the room, clutching the robe to her throat, a smile on her face. “May I help you, sir?”
“Yes, I am looking for the Schmidt’s,” Mundt spoke, hoping his voice carried inside the apartment. “Can you help me, please?”
“Just a moment,” Martha called back into the apartment. “I will go out on the landing, so we do not let the cold in. I will be right back after I help the man.”
“Nonsense, have him come in.”
“No, the house is a mess.” Martha stepped outside, closing the door behind her. She leaned close to Mundt. “When did you get back? I gave you up for dead?”
Mundt nodded to the door. “We cannot talk long. Meet me at the cafe near the Ministry tomorrow at lunchtime. We will talk then. Yes?”
“Yes, I will tell the Major I need some extra time to run errands. I will see you then.” Martha smiled, squeezed his hand before slipping back inside the apartment.
As he turned to go down the stairs, a voice asked from behind the door. “Who was it, Martha?”
“He said he looked for his brother. He must have the wrong building. You know how it is anymore. Everybody is looking for someone.”
The next day she arrived in the cafe shortly after noon. She rushed to his table at the cafe’s rear. As he watched her, he recalled her recruitment. She and her husband had been ardent Communists. The SA had beaten the husband during a street brawl in 1934, shortly after the Fuhrer became Chancellor. At the time merely one of many street wars casualties fought during those early years of Nazi ascendance.
Denied work because of their known Party affiliation, the woman had been desperate to support her and her disabled husband. He had easily recruited her with promises of protection and support. One of his first agents in the battle with the Communists.
“You look well, Frau Radner.” He beckoned her to an empty chair. “You are fortunate to be working, while so many are without income or food.”
“I am so glad to see you made it home safely.” Her eyes scanned the room. “We heard so many stories about the ghastly treatment our soldiers receive. Especially the ones taken by the Russians.”
“I am one of the lucky ones. Your husband does not know about the work you did for us?”
“No, of course not. He still believes in the Party even though they gave us no help after he got hurt.”
“Do your husband’s friends visit him often?”
“No, no one comes. He is trapped in that little apartment. If it hadn’t been for you, he would not even have had the wheelchair to get around with. But I cannot manage the stairs. So, he stays trapped.”
“Well, now that I am back, perhaps I can arrange a nice cottage somewhere. Perhaps one with a little garden. He loved that before. Yes?”
“Oh, yes, Major. That would be heavenly.”
“After they sent me away, they made me a Colonel.”
She batted her eyes. “No, I was not aware. I hoped when they transferred you so suddenly it was because they recognized your true worth. I am pleased. So, I should call you, Colonel now?”
“No, I have no rank now. You now may address me as Herr Mundt. Like many, I am forced to deny my service to the Fatherland. But now I again battle this Communist scum, but I need your help.”
“I am still grateful for all the help you gave us, even though we had been enemies of the Nazis. You were so kind.”
He arched an eyebrow. “Betraying your Comrades didn’t bother you?”
“They abandoned us. But now they are back. Want me to do their dirty work again.”
She then told him about Jovanovich’s visits, including his last request for copies of the files from the Tribunal’s records at the Ministry.
“You say he gave you a list?”
“Yes, here it is.” She passed Jovanovich’s list across the table. Mundt smiled as he read the names.
“And you are to copy these files.”
“Yes, he gave me a camera. I located them in our office, but I am seldom left alone.”
“Has this new Comrade contacted you yet?”
“No, but I was told to expect him soon.”
“I have an office at the Ministry office. On the third floor. It is freezing in that building at times. Is it not?”
He pulled two pairs of gloves from his pocket, which he handed to her.
“I will make a routine of coming through your office each day. If it is just cold, wear the brown gloves. If you have a message for me, such as this contact has approached you, wear the black.”
As she slipped on the black pair, her eyelids fluttered. “These are exquisite Herr Mundt. I understand.”
“On the day you wear black, we will meet here at lunch. If I cannot come, we will meet on your way home that day. If something comes up and I cannot make it, then wait until I see you in the office in the morning, and then we repeat the procedure.”
She repeated back her instructions perfectly.
“I must go. I have other appointments. It is imperative that if you see me at the office, you are to act as if you do not know me at first. Perhaps later, if it appears natural, we may become friends, so people will not be suspicious if they see us together. You should leave now. I will wait a while, so no one sees us leaving together.”
“I understand,” she replied as she stood to go, she kissed his cheek, then whispered in his ear. “Perhaps later, we might meet in a more private setting.”
He watched her leave, swaying her hips, hoping this new duty did not include what she now expected.
Back at the Ministry, he rushed up the stairs two at a time. Flushed with his success, he vowed to share the news with Herr Fisher. As he reached the second landing, he collided with a small man carrying a large canvas satchel with an easel tripod over his shoulder. As they stepped back from their encounter, the little man’s eyes opened wide, and his jaw dropped.
Mundt scowled at his little forger. “So, we meet again, eh? His eyes narrowed as he gave Zwolf an appraising glance. “Someone here has a use for vermin like you?”
“Colonel, such a surprise to see you again.” Zwolf dropped his easel and satchel, doffed his hat. “I am doing portraits for some Americans.”
“Do they know about your criminal past? I hope you have not forgotten the lessons from the camps.”
“Is everything all right here?” Ross said as he stepped from his office. His jaw dropped as Mundt turned to him. “Ah, Commandant! And in men’s clothes. What a surprise.” As he said this, Colonel Bradshaw and Sergeant Harrison, drawn by the noise on the stairs, came into the hallway, curious about the conversation. Harrison shook his head with a grin before returning to the office.
Puzzled, Bradshaw nodded towards Mundt. “Do you know this man, Captain?”
“Yes, sir! Saved him from a lynch mob in Austria. He commanded one camp at Mauthausen. I shipped him to the SS camp at Langwasser. Don’t know what he’s doin’ here.”
Mundt turned to Bradshaw. “I have an office on the third floor. I work for Herr Fisher.”
“Fisher?” Bradshaw shook his head. “Never heard of him. Captain, will you please escort this man to where he says he might be going. Find out who this Fisher is. If you find out this man has no business here, have the MPs take him back to the Camp.”
“My pleasure, sir!” Ross turned to Zwolf. “Why don’t you just go back to the office and ask Sergeant Harrison to make some tea or coffee or whatever you might need. You may also use my bathroom to wash up if you feel like being around this guy contaminated you.”
Ross nodded to Mundt. “Come on, honey, let’s go find out if anybody claims you.”
On the third floor, several Army carpenters framed a wall near a desk occupied by a Sergeant typing. The man stood as they approached. Gave Ross a quick glance, before turning to Mundt. “Mr. Fisher will be glad you are back so soon. Hope you got some news that cheers him up. He’s been on a real tear last two days.”
Mundt gave Ross a smug smile. “I believe Herr Fisher will be quite pleased with what I have to tell him.”
Ross nodded towards Mundt. “This guy works here?”
The Sergeant nodded.
“Look, I need to talk to this Fisher. Colonel Bradshaw needs this man’s status clarified. If not, he ordered me to return him to the Camp.”
“Let me check.” After marching down the framed hallway, the Sergeant rapped on one enclosed room’s door before stepping inside. After a moment, he returned. “The boss can see ya now, Captain.” The Sergeant turned to Mundt. “You stay here.”
“I am holding you responsible for this man, Sergeant.” Ross turned on his heel before marching to the enclosure the Sergeant had just entered, “If he walks away, I will make sure the MPs hear about it.”
As Ross knocked, then entered the enclosure, the Sergeant turned to Mundt. “I take it you met the Captain before?”
“He commanded the unit that captured me.”
“Captain Ross!” Butler smiled as Ross entered the office. “So, still on your toes and alert.”
“Colonel.” Ross saluted as he came to attention. “I need to speak to Mr. Fisher. This Nazi I found roaming the halls, claims he belongs to him.”
“No need for saluting here. Do you mean the former Colonel Mundt?”
“Yes, Sir. He claims he works for a Mr. Fisher and has an office here. Colonel Bradshaw ordered me to confirm that.”
Butler cocked his head. “Yes, the man has the office right across from mine. We share the same assignment.”
“And Mr. Fisher?”
“Mr. Fisher and I are close. We are of the same mind, you might say. Tell Colonel Bradshaw I vouch for Mundt, and if he has questions, he can come to me. My door is open.”
“If I may ask, just what is that assignment, Sir?”
Butler pursed his lips as he pondered the question. “I’m not at liberty to discuss it, Captain. Again, tell Colonel Bradshaw he can discuss this with me if he likes or he can take it to the General. Is that all?”
Soon after Ross exited, Mundt knocked before slipping inside Butler’s office. “I am sorry, Herr Fisher if this disturbed you, but I had success.”
Mundt then told him what he learned as he revived his first contact.
“Excellent.” Butler rubbed his hands together as if about to consume his favorite meal. “So, we might be ahead of them now?”
“This agent I have has been reliable in the past. I am confident she will lead us to the next step in the chain. Soon we will identify the entire network.”
“To prevent any more incidents like the one we had this morning, I’ll take you around with me through the offices and to the file room.” Butler rose from his desk. “That’ll let people know you have business here.”
Downstairs, Major Worth met them at the file room’s entrance. Butler turned to Mundt. “Major, in our haste to set up, I’m afraid I neglected to orient my entire staff to the records. This is Herr Mundt, one of my special assistants.”
Worth extended his hand. “Herr Mundt.” Worth gestured to the office. “These are my assistants, Gretchen, Martha, and Justine. Girls, this is Herr Mundt. He works upstairs. Could one of you give him a brief orientation to our office?”
Martha leaped to her feet, while Justine peered at Mundt. Her brow furrowed as his eyes narrowed, both recalling the other from Austria. Neither said anything as Martha took him back to the files. After finishing her tour, Martha led him back to Worth and Butler. As she returned to her desk, she spoke over her shoulder. “If you require anything from our registry, feel free to contact me.”
Mundt nodded, gave Justine a quick glance before returning to Butler.
As they walked up the stairs, Zwolf emerged from Ross’s office headed down the stairs.
Butler stepped around Zwolf, paused. “With the contacts, you had before, did you work with forgers?”
Mundt trailed Zwolf with his eyes. “I believe I know someone.”
“We have been relying on people in Washington, but that might be too slow to meet our needs. The British have offered, but I would like to keep things in-house for security reasons.”
As Zwolf exited the building, Mundt nodded. “We might need to entice him, but I am certain we can obtain his services.”
After leaving Butler, Ross marched to Bradshaw’s office. The clerk stationed at the Colonel’s door nodded as he prepared to knock. “Go on in. He’s expectin’ you.”
Bradshaw, studying Zwolf’s sketch, glanced up when he entered.
“So, what did you find out?”
“They vouched for the guy. Like he said, he works for some guy named Fisher.”
“Who is this man, Fisher, and why’s he using scum like that?”
“I didn’t find Fisher, but I spoke with Colonel Butler and one of his aides who vouched for the man.”
Bradshaw set the sketch aside, frowned. “Butler? You mean the character on the third floor?”
“I’m not sure what you mean, Sir?”
“I met him, and for the life of me, I have no idea what he does. When I ask, he mutters vague things. Except for that one talkative Sergeant, his staff remind me of the thugs I used to put away back home. Had you met him before today?”
“Yes sir, he was the Commander at my last post.”
Bradshaw placed his hands on his hips. “Well, that is even more bothersome. The man must know this character he has roaming the halls is a war criminal. What did he say he is doing?”
Ross shared with Bradshaw the remaining details from his meeting with Butler.
“Could take it up with the General, he said? I might have to do that. This sounds more and more outrageous by the minute.”
Ross said nothing about Willi or the information he had shared with him. Butler would surely realize that the information might have come from Willi or his employer. No sense tossing them into this, especially since Willi thought they intended to kill him.
Bradshaw held up Zwolf’s sketch. “Hell of an artist.”